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Artists create things but they are only different copies of the idea of the original. Thus every sort of confusion is revealed within us; and this is that weakness of the human mind on which the art of conjuring and deceiving by light and shadow and other ingenous devices imposes, having an effect upon us like magic. He speaks about illusions and confusion. Things can look very similar, but be different in reality.
Because we are human, at times we cannot tell the difference between the two. There are jests which you would be ashamed to make yourself, and yet on the comic stage, or indeed in private, when you hear them, you are greatly amused by them, and are not at all disgusted at their unseemliness—the case of pity is repeated—there is a principle in human nature which is disposed to raise a laugh, and this which you once restrained by reason, because you were afraid of being thought a buffoon, is now let out again; and having stimulated the risible faculty at the theatre, you are betrayed unconsciously to yourself into playing the comic poet at home.
With all of us, we may approve of something, as long we are not directly involved with it. If we joke about it, we are supporting it. And the same may be said of lust and anger and all the other affections, of desire and pain and pleasure, which are held to be inseparable from every action—in all of them poetry feeds and waters the passions instead of drying them up; she lets them rule, although they ought to be controlled, if mankind are ever to increase in happiness and virtue.
Sometimes we let our passions rule our actions or way of thinking, although they should be controlled, so that we can increase our happiness. Three interpretations of the Republic are presented in the following section; they are not exhaustive in their treatments of the work, but are examples of contemporary interpretation.
The core of the second part is the Allegory of the Cave and the discussion of the theory of ideal forms. The paradigm of the city—the idea of the Good , the Agathon —has manifold historical embodiments, undertaken by those who have seen the Agathon, and are ordered via the vision.
The centerpiece of the Republic , Part II, nos. The centerpiece is preceded and followed by the discussion of the means that will secure a well-ordered polis City. Part II, no. It describes a partially communistic polis. In part II, the Embodiment of the Idea , is preceded by the establishment of the economic and social orders of a polis part I , followed by an analysis part III of the decline the order must traverse.
The three parts compose the main body of the dialogues, with their discussions of the "paradigm", its embodiment, its genesis, and its decline. The introduction and the conclusion are the frame for the body of the Republic. The discussion of right order is occasioned by the questions: "Is justice better than injustice?
The prologue is a short dialogue about the common public doxai opinions about justice. Based upon faith, and not reason, the Epilogue describes the new arts and the immortality of the soul. Leo Strauss identified a four-part structure to the Republic , [ citation needed ] perceiving the dialogues as a drama enacted by particular characters, each with a particular perspective and level of intellect:. In the first book, two definitions of justice are proposed but deemed inadequate.
Yet he does not completely reject them, for each expresses a commonsense notion of justice that Socrates will incorporate into his discussion of the just regime in books II through V. At the end of Book I, Socrates agrees with Polemarchus that justice includes helping friends, but says the just man would never do harm to anybody. Thrasymachus believes that Socrates has done the men present an injustice by saying this and attacks his character and reputation in front of the group, partly because he suspects that Socrates himself does not even believe harming enemies is unjust.
Thrasymachus gives his understanding of justice and injustice as "justice is what is advantageous to the stronger, while injustice is to one's own profit and advantage". Socrates then asks whether the ruler who makes a mistake by making a law that lessens their well-being, is still a ruler according to that definition.
Thrasymachus agrees that no true ruler would make such an error. This agreement allows Socrates to undermine Thrasymachus' strict definition of justice by comparing rulers to people of various professions. Thrasymachus consents to Socrates' assertion that an artist is someone who does his job well, and is a knower of some art, which allows him to complete the job well.
In so doing Socrates gets Thrasymachus to admit that rulers who enact a law that does not benefit them firstly, are in the precise sense not rulers. Thrasymachus gives up, and is silent from then on. Socrates has trapped Thrasymachus into admitting the strong man who makes a mistake is not the strong man in the precise sense, and that some type of knowledge is required to rule perfectly. However, it is far from a satisfactory definition of justice.
At the beginning of Book II, Plato's two brothers challenge Socrates to define justice in the man, and unlike the rather short and simple definitions offered in Book I, their views of justice are presented in two independent speeches. Glaucon's speech reprises Thrasymachus' idea of justice; it starts with the legend of Gyges , who discovered a ring that gave him the power to become invisible.
Glaucon uses this story to argue that no man would be just if he had the opportunity of doing injustice with impunity. With the power to become invisible, Gyges is able to seduce the queen, murder the king, and take over the kingdom. Glaucon argues that the just as well as the unjust man would do the same if they had the power to get away with injustice exempt from punishment.
The only reason that men are just and praise justice is out of fear of being punished for injustice. The law is a product of compromise between individuals who agree not to do injustice to others if others will not do injustice to them.
Glaucon says that if people had the power to do injustice without fear of punishment, they would not enter into such an agreement. Glaucon uses this argument to challenge Socrates to defend the position that the just life is better than the unjust life. Adeimantus adds to Glaucon's speech the charge that men are only just for the results that justice brings one fortune, honor, reputation.
Adeimantus challenges Socrates to prove that being just is worth something in and of itself, not only as a means to an end. Socrates says that there is no better topic to debate. In response to the two views of injustice and justice presented by Glaucon and Adeimantus, he claims incompetence, but feels it would be impious to leave justice in such doubt. Thus the Republic sets out to define justice. Given the difficulty of this task as proven in Book I, Socrates in Book II leads his interlocutors into a discussion of justice in the city, which Socrates suggests may help them see justice not only in the person, but on a larger scale, "first in cities searching for what it is; then thusly we could examine also in some individual, examining the likeness of the bigger in the idea of the littler" e—a.
For over two and a half millennia, scholars have differed on the aptness of the city-soul analogy Socrates uses to find justice in Books II through V. Socrates' definition of justice is never unconditionally stated, only versions of justice within each city are "found" and evaluated in Books II through Book V.
Socrates constantly refers the definition of justice back to the conditions of the city for which it is created. He builds a series of myths, or noble lies , to make the cities appear just, and these conditions moderate life within the communities. The "earth born" myth makes all men believe that they are born from the earth and have predestined natures within their veins.
Accordingly, Socrates defines justice as "working at that to which he is naturally best suited", and "to do one's own business and not to be a busybody" a—b and goes on to say that justice sustains and perfects the other three cardinal virtues : Temperance, Wisdom, and Courage, and that justice is the cause and condition of their existence. Socrates does not include justice as a virtue within the city, suggesting that justice does not exist within the human soul either, rather it is the result of a "well ordered" soul.
A result of this conception of justice separates people into three types; that of the soldier, that of the producer, and that of a ruler. If a ruler can create just laws, and if the warriors can carry out the orders of the rulers, and if the producers can obey this authority, then a society will be just. The city is challenged by Adeimantus and Glaucon throughout its development: Adeimantus cannot find happiness in the city, and Glaucon cannot find honor and glory.
This hypothetical city contains no private property, no marriage, or nuclear families. These are sacrificed for the common good and doing what is best fitting to one's nature. In Book V Socrates addresses the question of "natural-ness" of and possibility for this city, concluding in Book VI, that the city's ontological status regards a construction of the soul, not of an actual metropolis.
The rule of philosopher-kings appear as the issue of possibility is raised. It is as though in a well-ordered state, justice is not even needed, since the community satisfies the needs of humans. In terms of why it is best to be just rather than unjust for the individual, Plato prepares an answer in Book IX consisting of three main arguments. Plato says that a tyrant's nature will leave him with "horrid pains and pangs" and that the typical tyrant engages in a lifestyle that will be physically and mentally exacting on such a ruler.
Such a disposition is in contrast to the truth-loving philosopher king , and a tyrant "never tastes of true freedom or friendship". The second argument proposes that of all the different types of people, only the philosopher is able to judge which type of ruler is best since only he can see the Form of the Good. Thirdly, Plato argues, "Pleasures which are approved of by the lover of wisdom and reason are the truest.
Socrates points out the human tendency to be corrupted by power leads down the road to timocracy , oligarchy , democracy and tyranny. From this, he concludes that ruling should be left to philosophers, who are the most just and therefore least susceptible to corruption. This "good city" is depicted as being governed by philosopher-kings; disinterested persons who rule not for their personal enjoyment but for the good of the city-state polis.
The philosophers have seen the "Forms" and therefore know what is good. They understand the corrupting effect of greed and own no property and receive no salary. They also live in sober communism, eating and sleeping together. The paradigmatic society which stands behind every historical society is hierarchical, but social classes have a marginal permeability; there are no slaves, no discrimination between men and women.
The men and women are both to be taught the same things, so they are both able to be used for the same things e. A number of provisions aim to avoid making the people weak: the substitution of a universal educational system for men and women instead of debilitating music, poetry and theatre—a startling departure from Greek society. These provisions apply to all classes, and the restrictions placed on the philosopher-kings chosen from the warrior class and the warriors are much more severe than those placed on the producers, because the rulers must be kept away from any source of corruption.
In Books V-VI the abolition of riches among the guardian class not unlike Max Weber's bureaucracy leads controversially to the abandonment of the typical family, and as such no child may know his or her parents and the parents may not know their own children. Socrates tells a tale which is the "allegory of the good government". The rulers assemble couples for reproduction, based on breeding criteria.
Thus, stable population is achieved through eugenics and social cohesion is projected to be high because familial links are extended towards everyone in the city. Also the education of the youth is such that they are taught of only works of writing that encourage them to improve themselves for the state's good, and envision the god s as entirely good, just, and the author s of only that which is good.
It begins with the dismissal of timocracy, a sort of authoritarian regime, not unlike a military dictatorship. Plato offers an almost psychoanalytical explanation of the "timocrat" as one who saw his father humiliated by his mother and wants to vindicate "manliness". The third worst regime is oligarchy, the rule of a small band of rich people, millionaires that only respect money.
Then comes the democratic form of government, and its susceptibility to being ruled by unfit "sectarian" demagogues. Finally the worst regime is tyranny, where the whimsical desires of the ruler became law and there is no check upon arbitrariness. The Republic contains Plato's Allegory of the cave with which he explains his concept of The Forms as an answer to the problem of universals.
The allegory of the cave primarily depicts Plato's distinction between the world of appearances and the 'real' world of the Forms,  as well as helping to justify the philosopher's place in society as king.
Plato imagines a group of people who have lived their entire lives as prisoners, chained to the wall of a cave in the subterranean so they are unable to see the outside world behind them. However a constant flame illuminates various moving objects outside, which are silhouetted on the wall of the cave visible to the prisoners.
These prisoners, through having no other experience of reality, ascribe forms to these shadows such as either "dog" or "cat". Plato then goes on to explain how the philosopher is akin to a prisoner who is freed from the cave. The prisoner is initially blinded by the light, but when he adjusts to the brightness he sees the fire and the statues and how they caused the images witnessed inside the cave.
He sees that the fire and statues in the cave were just copies of the real objects; merely imitations. This is analogous to the Forms. What we see from day to day are merely appearances, reflections of the Forms. The philosopher, however, will not be deceived by the shadows and will hence be able to see the 'real' world, the world above that of appearances; the philosopher will gain knowledge of things in themselves.
In this analogy the sun is representative of the Good. This is the main object of the philosopher's knowledge. The Good can be thought of as the form of Forms, or the structuring of the world as a whole. The prisoner's stages of understanding correlate with the levels on the divided line which he imagines. The line is divided into what the visible world is and what the intelligible world is, with the divider being the Sun. When the prisoner is in the cave, he is obviously in the visible realm that receives no sunlight, and outside he comes to be in the intelligible realm.
The shadows witnessed in the cave correspond to the lowest level on Plato's line, that of imagination and conjecture. Once the prisoner is freed and sees the shadows for what they are he reaches the second stage on the divided line, the stage of belief, for he comes to believe that the statues in the cave are real. On leaving the cave, however, the prisoner comes to see objects more real than the statues inside of the cave, and this correlates with the third stage on Plato's line, thought.
Lastly, the prisoner turns to the sun which he grasps as the source of truth, or the Form of the Good, and this last stage, named as dialectic, is the highest possible stage on the line. The prisoner, as a result of the Form of the Good, can begin to understand all other forms in reality. At the end of this allegory, Plato asserts that it is the philosopher's burden to reenter the cave. Those who have seen the ideal world, he says, have the duty to educate those in the material world.
Since the philosopher recognizes what is truly good only he is fit to rule society according to Plato. While Plato spends much of the Republic having Socrates narrate a conversation about the city he founds with Glaucon and Adeimantus "in speech", the discussion eventually turns to considering four regimes that exist in reality and tend to degrade successively into each other: timocracy, oligarchy also called plutocracy , democracy and tyranny also called despotism.
Socrates defines a timocracy as a government of people who love rule and honor. Socrates argues that the timocracy emerges from aristocracy due to a civil war breaking out among the ruling class and the majority. Over time, many more births will occur to people who lack aristocratic, guardian qualities, slowly drawing the populace away from knowledge, music, poetry and "guardian education", toward money-making and the acquisition of possessions.
This civil war between those who value wisdom and those who value material acquisition will continue until a compromise is reached. The timocracy values war insofar as it satisfies a love of victory and honor.
The timocratic man loves physical training, and hunting, and values his abilities in warfare. Temptations create a confusion between economic status and honor which is responsible for the emergence of oligarchy. In Book VIII, Socrates suggests that wealth will not help a pilot to navigate his ship, as his concerns will be directed centrally toward increasing his wealth by whatever means, rather than seeking out wisdom or honor.
The injustice of economic disparity divides the rich and the poor, thus creating an environment for criminals and beggars to emerge. The rich are constantly plotting against the poor and vice versa. The oligarchic constitution is based on property assessment and wealth qualification. Unlike the timocracy, oligarchs are also unable to fight war, since they do not wish to arm the majority for fear of their rising up against them fearing the majority even more than their enemies , nor do they seem to pay mercenaries, since they are reluctant to spend money.
As this socioeconomic divide grows, so do tensions between social classes. From the conflicts arising out of such tensions, the poor majority overthrow the wealthy minority, and democracy replaces the oligarchy preceding it. The poor overthrow the oligarchs and grant liberties and freedoms to citizens, creating a most variegated collection of peoples under a "supermarket" of constitutions.
A visually appealing demagogue is soon lifted up to protect the interests of the lower class. However, with too much freedom, no requirements for anyone to rule, and having no interest in assessing the background of their rulers other than honoring such people because they wish the majority well the people become easily persuaded by such a demagogue's appeal to try to satisfy people's common, base, and unnecessary pleasures.
The excessive freedoms granted to the citizens of a democracy ultimately leads to a tyranny , the furthest regressed type of government. These freedoms divide the people into three socioeconomic classes: the dominating class, the elites and the commoners.
Tensions between the dominating class and the elites cause the commoners to seek out protection of their democratic liberties. They invest all their power in their democratic demagogue, who, in turn, becomes corrupted by the power and becomes a tyrant with a small entourage of his supporters for protection and absolute control of his people. The idea of writing treatises on systems of government was followed some decades later by Plato's most prominent pupil Aristotle , whose Politika systematises many of Plato's concepts, in some cases differing from his conclusions.
It has been suggested that Isocrates parodies the Republic in his work Busiris by showing Callipolis' similarity to the Egyptian state founded by a king of that name. Zeno of Citium , the founder of Stoicism , wrote his version of an ideal society, Zeno's Republic , in opposition to Plato's Republic. The English title of Plato's dialogue is derived from Cicero 's De re publica , written some three centuries later.
Cicero's dialogue imitates Plato's style and treats many of the same topics, and Cicero's main character Scipio Aemilianus expresses his esteem for Plato and Socrates. Res publica is not an exact translation of Plato's Greek title politeia. Rather, politeia is a general term for the actual and potential forms of government for a Polis or city-state, and Plato attempts to survey all possible forms of the state. Cicero's discussion is more parochial, focusing on the improvement of the participants' own state, the Roman Republic in its final stages.
In antiquity, Plato's works were largely acclaimed, but a few commentators regarded them as too theoretical. In this work, Tacitus undertakes the prosaic description and minute analysis of how real states are governed, attempting to derive more practical lessons about good versus bad governance than can be deduced from speculations on ideal governments. In the pivotal era of Rome's move from its ancient polytheist religion to Christianity, Augustine wrote his magnum opus The City of God : Again, the references to Plato, Aristotle and Cicero and their visions of the ideal state were legion: Augustine equally described a model of the "ideal city", in his case the eternal Jerusalem , using a visionary language not unlike that of the preceding philosophers.
Islamic philosophers were much more interested in Aristotle than Plato, but not having access to Aristotle's Politics , Ibn Rushd Averroes produced instead a commentary on Plato's Republic. He advances an authoritarian ideal, following Plato's paternalistic model. Absolute monarchy, led by a philosopher-king, creates a justly ordered society.
This requires extensive use of coercion,  although persuasion is preferred and is possible if the young are properly raised. Demonstrative knowledge via philosophy and logic requires special study. Rhetoric aids religion in reaching the masses. Following Plato, Ibn Rushd accepts the principle of women's equality. They should be educated and allowed to serve in the military; the best among them might be tomorrow's philosophers or rulers.
He uses examples from Arab history to illustrate just and degenerate political orders. Hegel respected Plato's theories of state and ethics much more than those of the early modern philosophers such as Locke , Hobbes and Rousseau , whose theories proceeded from a fictional " state of nature " defined by humanity's "natural" needs, desires and freedom.
For Hegel this was a contradiction: since nature and the individual are contradictory, the freedoms which define individuality as such are latecomers on the stage of history. Therefore, these philosophers unwittingly projected man as an individual in modern society onto a primordial state of nature.
Plato however had managed to grasp the ideas specific to his time:. Plato is not the man to dabble in abstract theories and principles; his truth-loving mind has recognized and represented the truth of the world in which he lived, the truth of the one spirit that lived in him as in Greece itself. No man can overleap his time, the spirit of his time is his spirit also; but the point at issue is, to recognize that spirit by its content. For Hegel, Plato's Republic is not an abstract theory or ideal which is too good for the real nature of man, but rather is not ideal enough, not good enough for the ideals already inherent or nascent in the reality of his time; a time when Greece was entering decline.
One such nascent idea was about to crush the Greek way of life: modern freedoms—or Christian freedoms in Hegel's view—such as the individual's choice of his social class, or of what property to pursue, or which career to follow. Such individual freedoms were excluded from Plato's Republic:. Plato recognized and caught up the true spirit of his times, and brought it forward in a more definite way, in that he desired to make this new principle an impossibility in his Republic.
Greece being at a crossroads, Plato's new "constitution" in the Republic was an attempt to preserve Greece: it was a reactionary reply to the new freedoms of private property etc. Accordingly, in ethical life, it was an attempt to introduce a religion that elevated each individual not as an owner of property, but as the possessor of an immortal soul.
In his Plato und die Dichter Plato and the Poets , as well as several other works, Hans-Georg Gadamer describes the utopic city of the Republic as a heuristic utopia that should not be pursued or even be used as an orientation-point for political development. Rather, its purpose is said to be to show how things would have to be connected, and how one thing would lead to another—often with highly problematic results—if one would opt for certain principles and carry them through rigorously.
This interpretation argues that large passages in Plato's writing are ironic , a line of thought initially pursued by Kierkegaard. The city portrayed in the Republic struck some critics as harsh, rigid, and unfree; indeed, as totalitarian. Karl Popper gave a voice to that view in his book The Open Society and Its Enemies , where he singled out Plato's state as a dystopia. Popper distinguished Plato's ideas from those of Socrates, claiming that the former in his later years expressed none of the humanitarian and democratic tendencies of his teacher.
He argues that Plato has no interest in what are commonly regarded as the problems of justice — the resolution of disputes between individuals — because Plato has redefined justice as "keeping one's place". For instance, there is evidence in the dialogue that Socrates himself would not be a member of his 'ideal' state. His life was almost solely dedicated to the private pursuit of knowledge.
More practically, Socrates suggests that members of the lower classes could rise to the higher ruling class, and vice versa, if they had 'gold' in their veins—a version of the concept of social mobility. The exercise of power is built on the ' noble lie ' that all men are brothers, born of the earth, yet there is a clear hierarchy and class divisions.
There is a tripartite explanation of human psychology that is extrapolated to the city, the relation among peoples. There is no family among the guardians, another crude version of Max Weber's concept of bureaucracy as the state non-private concern. Together with Leo Strauss, Voegelin considered Popper's interpretation to be a gross misunderstanding not only of the dialogue itself, but of the very nature and character of Plato's entire philosophic enterprise.
Some of Plato 's proposals have led theorists like Leo Strauss and Allan Bloom to ask readers to consider the possibility that Socrates was creating not a blueprint for a real city, but a learning exercise for the young men in the dialogue. There are many points in the construction of the "Just City in Speech" that seem contradictory , which raise the possibility Socrates is employing irony to make the men in the dialogue question for themselves the ultimate value of the proposals.
In turn, Plato has immortalized this 'learning exercise' in the Republic. One of many examples is that Socrates calls the marriages of the ruling class ' sacred '; however, they last only one night and are the result of manipulating and drugging couples into predetermined intercourse with the aim of eugenically breeding guardian-warriors.
Strauss and Bloom's interpretations, however, involve more than just pointing out inconsistencies; by calling attention to these issues they ask readers to think more deeply about whether Plato is being ironic or genuine, for neither Strauss nor Bloom present an unequivocal opinion, preferring to raise philosophic doubt over interpretive fact. Strauss's approach developed out of a belief that Plato wrote esoterically. The basic acceptance of the exoteric - esoteric distinction revolves around whether Plato really wanted to see the "Just City in Speech" of Books V-VI come to pass, or whether it is just an allegory.
Strauss never regarded this as the crucial issue of the dialogue. He argued against Karl Popper's literal view, citing Cicero 's opinion that the Republic's true nature was to bring to light the nature of political things.
The city founded in the Republic "is rendered possible by the abstraction from eros". An argument that has been used against ascribing ironic intent to Plato is that Plato's Academy produced a number of tyrants who seized political power and abandoned philosophy for ruling a city. Despite being well-versed in Greek and having direct contact with Plato himself, some of Plato's former students like Clearchus , tyrant of Heraclea ; Chaeron , tyrant of Pellene ; Erastus and Coriscus , tyrants of Skepsis ; Hermias of Atarneus and Assos ; and Calippus , tyrant of Syracuse ruled people and did not impose anything like a philosopher-kingship.
However, it can be argued whether these men became "tyrants" through studying in the Academy. Plato's school had an elite student body, some of whom would by birth, and family expectation, end up in the seats of power. Additionally, it is important to remember that it is by no means obvious that these men were tyrants in the modern, totalitarian sense of the concept.
Finally, since very little is actually known about what was taught at Plato's Academy, there is no small controversy over whether it was even in the business of teaching politics at all. Many critics, both ancient and modern like Julia Annas , have suggested that the dialogue's political discussion actually serves as an analogy for the individual soul, in which there are also many different "members" that can either conflict or else be integrated and orchestrated under a just and productive "government.
This view, of course, does not preclude a legitimate reading of the Republic as a political treatise the work could operate at both levels. It merely implies that it deserves more attention as a work on psychology and moral philosophy than it has sometimes received.
The above-mentioned views have in common that they view the Republic as a theoretical work, not as a set of guidelines for good governance. However, Popper insists that the Republic, "was meant by its author not so much as a theoretical treatise, but as a topical political manifesto"  and Bertrand Russell argues that at least in intent , and all in all not so far from what was possible in ancient Greek city-states, the form of government portrayed in the Republic was meant as a practical one by Plato.
One of Plato's recurring techniques in the Republic is to refine the concept of justice with reference to various examples of greater or lesser injustice. However, in The Concept of Injustice ,  Eric Heinze challenges the assumption that 'justice' and 'injustice' form a mutually exclusive pair.
Heinze argues that such an assumption traces not from strict deductive logic, but from the arbitrary etymology of the word 'injustice'. Heinze critiques what he calls 'classical' Western justice theory for having perpetuated that logical error, which first appears in Plato's Republic , but manifests throughout traditional political philosophy, in thinkers otherwise as different as Aristotle , Aquinas , Locke, Rousseau , Hegel and Marx.
In , a survey of over 1, academics and students voted the Republic the greatest philosophical text ever written. Julian Baggini argued that although the work "was wrong on almost every point, the questions it raises and the methods it uses are essential to the western tradition of philosophy. Without it we might not have philosophy as we know it. In fiction, Jo Walton 's novel The Just City explored the consequences of establishing a city-state based on the Republic in practice.
The Republic is generally placed in the middle period of Plato's dialogues—that is, it is believed to be written after the early period dialogues but before the late period dialogues. However, the distinction of this group from the early dialogues is not as clear as the distinction of the late dialogues from all the others. Nonetheless, Ritter, Arnim, and Baron—with their separate methodologies—all agreed that the Republic was well distinguished, along with Parmenides , Phaedrus and Theaetetus.
However, the first book of the Republic , which shares many features with earlier dialogues, is thought to have originally been written as a separate work, and then the remaining books were conjoined to it, perhaps with modifications to the original of the first book. Several Oxyrhynchus Papyri fragments were found to contain parts of the Republic , and from other works such as Phaedo , or the dialogue Gorgias , written around — CE.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Plato from Raphael 's The School of Athens — This section needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed. November Learn how and when to remove this template message. March Learn how and when to remove this template message. Main article: Plato's five regimes.
Plato c. Dating Plato's Dialogues. Talk of the Nation. Plato: His Philosophy and his life, allphilosophers. Lorenz, Hendrik 22 April Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 10 December From Plato to Derrida. Hackett Publishing. Plato in Twelve Volumes. Plato in Twelve Volumes, Vols. Archived from the original on 14 May Retrieved 28 March Book I, c. The philosophic soul according to Socrates has reason, will, and desires united in virtuous harmony. A philosopher has the moderate love for wisdom and the courage to act according to wisdom.
Wisdom is knowledge about the Good or the right relations between all that exists. Wherein it concerns states and rulers, Socrates asks which is better—a bad democracy or a country reigned by a tyrant. He argues that it is better to be ruled by a bad tyrant, than by a bad democracy since here all the people are now responsible for such actions, rather than one individual committing many bad deeds.
This is emphasised within the Republic as Socrates describes the event of mutiny on board a ship. Socrates' description of this event is parallel to that of democracy within the state and the inherent problems that arise. According to Socrates, a state made up of different kinds of souls will, overall, decline from an aristocracy rule by the best to a timocracy rule by the honourable , then to an oligarchy rule by the few , then to a democracy rule by the people , and finally to tyranny rule by one person, rule by a tyrant.
This regime is ruled by a philosopher king , and thus is grounded on wisdom and reason. In Book VIII, Socrates states in order the other four imperfect societies with a description of the state's structure and individual character. In timocracy the ruling class is made up primarily of those with a warrior-like character. It is characterized by an undisciplined society existing in chaos, where the tyrant rises as popular champion leading to the formation of his private army and the growth of oppression.
Several dialogues tackle questions about art, including rhetoric and rhapsody. Socrates says that poetry is inspired by the muses , and is not rational. He speaks approvingly of this, and other forms of divine madness drunkenness, eroticism, and dreaming in the Phaedrus ,  and yet in the Republic wants to outlaw Homer's great poetry, and laughter as well.
In Ion , Socrates gives no hint of the disapproval of Homer that he expresses in the Republic. The dialogue Ion suggests that Homer's Iliad functioned in the ancient Greek world as the Bible does today in the modern Christian world: as divinely inspired literature that can provide moral guidance, if only it can be properly interpreted. For a long time, Plato's unwritten doctrines    had been controversial.
Many modern books on Plato seem to diminish its importance; nevertheless, the first important witness who mentions its existence is Aristotle, who in his Physics writes: "It is true, indeed, that the account he gives there [i. The importance of the unwritten doctrines does not seem to have been seriously questioned before the 19th century. A reason for not revealing it to everyone is partially discussed in Phaedrus where Plato criticizes the written transmission of knowledge as faulty, favouring instead the spoken logos : "he who has knowledge of the just and the good and beautiful The content of this lecture has been transmitted by several witnesses.
Aristoxenus describes the event in the following words: "Each came expecting to learn something about the things that are generally considered good for men, such as wealth, good health, physical strength, and altogether a kind of wonderful happiness.
But when the mathematical demonstrations came, including numbers, geometrical figures and astronomy, and finally the statement Good is One seemed to them, I imagine, utterly unexpected and strange; hence some belittled the matter, while others rejected it. Their account is in full agreement with Aristotle's description of Plato's metaphysical doctrine. In Metaphysics he writes: "Now since the Forms are the causes of everything else, he [i.
Plato] supposed that their elements are the elements of all things. Accordingly the material principle is the Great and Small [i. Further, he assigned to these two elements respectively the causation of good and of evil". The most important aspect of this interpretation of Plato's metaphysics is the continuity between his teaching and the Neoplatonic interpretation of Plotinus [i] or Ficino [j] which has been considered erroneous by many but may in fact have been directly influenced by oral transmission of Plato's doctrine.
A modern scholar who recognized the importance of the unwritten doctrine of Plato was Heinrich Gomperz who described it in his speech during the 7th International Congress of Philosophy in The trial of Socrates and his death sentence is the central, unifying event of Plato's dialogues.
It is relayed in the dialogues Apology , Crito , and Phaedo. Apology is Socrates' defence speech, and Crito and Phaedo take place in prison after the conviction. Apology is among the most frequently read of Plato's works. In the Apology , Socrates tries to dismiss rumours that he is a sophist and defends himself against charges of disbelief in the gods and corruption of the young.
Socrates insists that long-standing slander will be the real cause of his demise, and says the legal charges are essentially false. Socrates famously denies being wise, and explains how his life as a philosopher was launched by the Oracle at Delphi.
He says that his quest to resolve the riddle of the oracle put him at odds with his fellow man, and that this is the reason he has been mistaken for a menace to the city-state of Athens. In Apology , Socrates is presented as mentioning Plato by name as one of those youths close enough to him to have been corrupted, if he were in fact guilty of corrupting the youth, and questioning why their fathers and brothers did not step forward to testify against him if he was indeed guilty of such a crime.
If Plato's important dialogues do not refer to Socrates' execution explicitly, they allude to it, or use characters or themes that play a part in it. Five dialogues foreshadow the trial: In the Theaetetus and the Euthyphro Socrates tells people that he is about to face corruption charges.
In the Protagoras , Socrates is a guest at the home of Callias , son of Hipponicus , a man whom Socrates disparages in the Apology as having wasted a great amount of money on sophists' fees. Two other important dialogues, the Symposium and the Phaedrus , are linked to the main storyline by characters. In the Apology , Socrates says Aristophanes slandered him in a comic play, and blames him for causing his bad reputation, and ultimately, his death. The character Phaedrus is linked to the main story line by character Phaedrus is also a participant in the Symposium and the Protagoras and by theme the philosopher as divine emissary, etc.
The Protagoras is also strongly linked to the Symposium by characters: all of the formal speakers at the Symposium with the exception of Aristophanes are present at the home of Callias in that dialogue. Charmides and his guardian Critias are present for the discussion in the Protagoras. Examples of characters crossing between dialogues can be further multiplied.
The Protagoras contains the largest gathering of Socratic associates. In the dialogues Plato is most celebrated and admired for, Socrates is concerned with human and political virtue, has a distinctive personality, and friends and enemies who "travel" with him from dialogue to dialogue.
This is not to say that Socrates is consistent: a man who is his friend in one dialogue may be an adversary or subject of his mockery in another. For example, Socrates praises the wisdom of Euthyphro many times in the Cratylus , but makes him look like a fool in the Euthyphro. He disparages sophists generally, and Prodicus specifically in the Apology , whom he also slyly jabs in the Cratylus for charging the hefty fee of fifty drachmas for a course on language and grammar.
However, Socrates tells Theaetetus in his namesake dialogue that he admires Prodicus and has directed many pupils to him. Socrates' ideas are also not consistent within or between or among dialogues. Mythos and logos are terms that evolved along classical Greek history. In the times of Homer and Hesiod 8th century BC they were essentially synonyms, and contained the meaning of 'tale' or 'history'. Later came historians like Herodotus and Thucydides, as well as philosophers like Heraclitus and Parmenides and other Presocratics who introduced a distinction between both terms; mythos became more a nonverifiable account , and logos a rational account.
Instead he made an abundant use of it. This fact has produced analytical and interpretative work, in order to clarify the reasons and purposes for that use. Plato, in general, distinguished between three types of myth. Then came the myths based on true reasoning, and therefore also true.
Finally there were those non verifiable because beyond of human reason, but containing some truth in them. Regarding the subjects of Plato's myths they are of two types, those dealing with the origin of the universe, and those about morals and the origin and fate of the soul. It is generally agreed that the main purpose for Plato in using myths was didactic. He considered that only a few people were capable or interested in following a reasoned philosophical discourse, but men in general are attracted by stories and tales.
Consequently, then, he used the myth to convey the conclusions of the philosophical reasoning. Some of Plato's myths were based in traditional ones, others were modifications of them, and finally he also invented altogether new myths.
The theory of Forms is most famously captured in his Allegory of the Cave , and more explicitly in his analogy of the sun and the divided line. The Allegory of the Cave is a paradoxical analogy wherein Socrates argues that the invisible world is the most intelligible 'noeton' and that the visible world h oraton is the least knowable, and the most obscure. Socrates says in the Republic that people who take the sun-lit world of the senses to be good and real are living pitifully in a den of evil and ignorance.
Socrates admits that few climb out of the den, or cave of ignorance, and those who do, not only have a terrible struggle to attain the heights, but when they go back down for a visit or to help other people up, they find themselves objects of scorn and ridicule. According to Socrates, physical objects and physical events are "shadows" of their ideal or perfect forms, and exist only to the extent that they instantiate the perfect versions of themselves.
Just as shadows are temporary, inconsequential epiphenomena produced by physical objects, physical objects are themselves fleeting phenomena caused by more substantial causes, the ideals of which they are mere instances. For example, Socrates thinks that perfect justice exists although it is not clear where and his own trial would be a cheap copy of it. The Allegory of the Cave is intimately connected to his political ideology, that only people who have climbed out of the cave and cast their eyes on a vision of goodness are fit to rule.
Socrates claims that the enlightened men of society must be forced from their divine contemplation and be compelled to run the city according to their lofty insights. Thus is born the idea of the " philosopher-king ", the wise person who accepts the power thrust upon him by the people who are wise enough to choose a good master. This is the main thesis of Socrates in the Republic , that the most wisdom the masses can muster is the wise choice of a ruler.
A ring which could make one invisible, the Ring of Gyges is considered in the Republic for its ethical consequences. He also compares the soul Psyche to a chariot. In this allegory he introduces a triple soul which composed of a Charioteer and two horses. Charioteer is a symbol of intellectual and logical part of the soul logistikon , and two horses represents moral virtues thymoeides and passionate instincts epithymetikon , Respectively.
Socrates employs a dialectic method which proceeds by questioning. The role of dialectic in Plato's thought is contested but there are two main interpretations: a type of reasoning and a method of intuition. Each new idea exposes a flaw in the accepted model, and the epistemological substance of the debate continually approaches the truth.
Hartz's is a teleological interpretation at the core, in which philosophers will ultimately exhaust the available body of knowledge and thus reach "the end of history. Plato often discusses the father-son relationship and the question of whether a father's interest in his sons has much to do with how well his sons turn out. In ancient Athens, a boy was socially located by his family identity, and Plato often refers to his characters in terms of their paternal and fraternal relationships.
Socrates was not a family man, and saw himself as the son of his mother, who was apparently a midwife. A divine fatalist , Socrates mocks men who spent exorbitant fees on tutors and trainers for their sons, and repeatedly ventures the idea that good character is a gift from the gods. Plato's dialogue Crito reminds Socrates that orphans are at the mercy of chance, but Socrates is unconcerned.
In the Theaetetus , he is found recruiting as a disciple a young man whose inheritance has been squandered. Socrates twice compares the relationship of the older man and his boy lover to the father-son relationship,   and in the Phaedo , Socrates' disciples, towards whom he displays more concern than his biological sons, say they will feel "fatherless" when he is gone.
Though Plato agreed with Aristotle that women were inferior to men , he thought because of this women needed an education. Plato thought weak men who live poor lives would be reincarnated as women. Plato never presents himself as a participant in any of the dialogues, and with the exception of the Apology , there is no suggestion that he heard any of the dialogues firsthand.
Some dialogues have no narrator but have a pure "dramatic" form examples: Meno , Gorgias , Phaedrus , Crito , Euthyphro , some dialogues are narrated by Socrates, wherein he speaks in first person examples: Lysis , Charmides , Republic. One dialogue, Protagoras , begins in dramatic form but quickly proceeds to Socrates' narration of a conversation he had previously with the sophist for whom the dialogue is named; this narration continues uninterrupted till the dialogue's end.
Two dialogues Phaedo and Symposium also begin in dramatic form but then proceed to virtually uninterrupted narration by followers of Socrates. Phaedo , an account of Socrates' final conversation and hemlock drinking, is narrated by Phaedo to Echecrates in a foreign city not long after the execution took place.
Apollodorus assures his listener that he is recounting the story, which took place when he himself was an infant, not from his own memory, but as remembered by Aristodemus, who told him the story years ago. The Theaetetus is a peculiar case: a dialogue in dramatic form embedded within another dialogue in dramatic form. In the beginning of the Theaetetus ,  Euclides says that he compiled the conversation from notes he took based on what Socrates told him of his conversation with the title character.
The rest of the Theaetetus is presented as a "book" written in dramatic form and read by one of Euclides' slaves. Thirty-five dialogues and thirteen letters the Epistles have traditionally been ascribed to Plato, though modern scholarship doubts the authenticity of at least some of these. Plato's writings have been published in several fashions; this has led to several conventions regarding the naming and referencing of Plato's texts.
The usual system for making unique references to sections of the text by Plato derives from a 16th-century edition of Plato's works by Henricus Stephanus known as Stephanus pagination. One tradition regarding the arrangement of Plato's texts is according to tetralogies. No one knows the exact order Plato's dialogues were written in, nor the extent to which some might have been later revised and rewritten.
The works are usually grouped into Early sometimes by some into Transitional , Middle , and Late period. Whereas those classified as "early dialogues" often conclude in aporia, the so-called "middle dialogues" provide more clearly stated positive teachings that are often ascribed to Plato such as the theory of Forms. The remaining dialogues are classified as "late" and are generally agreed to be difficult and challenging pieces of philosophy. This grouping is the only one proven by stylometric analysis.
The following represents one relatively common division. Increasingly in the most recent Plato scholarship, writers are sceptical of the notion that the order of Plato's writings can be established with any precision,  though Plato's works are still often characterized as falling at least roughly into three groups. A significant distinction of the early Plato and the later Plato has been offered by scholars such as E. Dodds and has been summarized by Harold Bloom in his book titled Agon : "E.
Dodds is the classical scholar whose writings most illuminated the Hellenic descent in The Greeks and the Irrational In his chapter on Plato and the Irrational Soul Dodds traces Plato's spiritual evolution from the pure rationalist of the Protagoras to the transcendental psychologist, influenced by the Pythagoreans and Orphics, of the later works culminating in the Laws. Lewis Campbell was the first  to make exhaustive use of stylometry to prove objectively that the Critias , Timaeus , Laws , Philebus , Sophist , and Statesman were all clustered together as a group, while the Parmenides , Phaedrus , Republic , and Theaetetus belong to a separate group, which must be earlier given Aristotle's statement in his Politics  that the Laws was written after the Republic ; cf.
What is remarkable about Campbell's conclusions is that, in spite of all the stylometric studies that have been conducted since his time, perhaps the only chronological fact about Plato's works that can now be said to be proven by stylometry is the fact that Critias , Timaeus , Laws , Philebus , Sophist , and Statesman are the latest of Plato's dialogues, the others earlier.
Protagoras is often considered one of the last of the "early dialogues". Three dialogues are often considered "transitional" or "pre-middle": Euthydemus , Gorgias , and Meno. Proponents of dividing the dialogues into periods often consider the Parmenides and Theaetetus to come late in the middle period and be transitional to the next, as they seem to treat the theory of Forms critically Parmenides or only indirectly Theaetetus.
The first book of the Republic is often thought to have been written significantly earlier than the rest of the work, although possibly having undergone revisions when the later books were attached to it. While looked to for Plato's "mature" answers to the questions posed by his earlier works, those answers are difficult to discern.
Some scholars  indicate that the theory of Forms is absent from the late dialogues, its having been refuted in the Parmenides , but there isn't total consensus that the Parmenides actually refutes the theory of Forms. Jowett mentions in his Appendix to Menexenus, that works which bore the character of a writer were attributed to that writer even when the actual author was unknown.
The following works were transmitted under Plato's name, most of them already considered spurious in antiquity, and so were not included by Thrasyllus in his tetralogical arrangement. These works are labelled as Notheuomenoi "spurious" or Apocrypha. Some known manuscripts of Plato survive. These sources are medieval manuscripts written on vellum mainly from 9th to 13th century AD Byzantium , papyri mainly from late antiquity in Egypt , and from the independent testimonia of other authors who quote various segments of the works which come from a variety of sources.
The text as presented is usually not much different from what appears in the Byzantine manuscripts, and papyri and testimonia just confirm the manuscript tradition. In some editions however the readings in the papyri or testimonia are favoured in some places by the editing critic of the text. Reviewing editions of papyri for the Republic in , Slings suggests that the use of papyri is hampered due to some poor editing practices.
In the first century AD, Thrasyllus of Mendes had compiled and published the works of Plato in the original Greek, both genuine and spurious. While it has not survived to the present day, all the extant medieval Greek manuscripts are based on his edition. Clarke 39 , which was written in Constantinople in and acquired by Oxford University in B contains the first six tetralogies and is described internally as being written by "John the Calligrapher" on behalf of Arethas of Caesarea.
It appears to have undergone corrections by Arethas himself. The oldest manuscript for the seventh tetralogy is Codex Vindobonensis To help establish the text, the older evidence of papyri and the independent evidence of the testimony of commentators and other authors i. Many papyri which contain fragments of Plato's texts are among the Oxyrhynchus Papyri. The Oxford Classical Texts edition by Slings even cites the Coptic translation of a fragment of the Republic in the Nag Hammadi library as evidence.
During the early Renaissance, the Greek language and, along with it, Plato's texts were reintroduced to Western Europe by Byzantine scholars. In September or October Filippo Valori and Francesco Berlinghieri printed copies of Ficino's translation, using the printing press at the Dominican convent S.
Jacopo di Ripoli. The edition  of Plato's complete works published by Henricus Stephanus Henri Estienne in Geneva also included parallel Latin translation and running commentary by Joannes Serranus Jean de Serres. It was this edition which established standard Stephanus pagination , still in use today. The Oxford Classical Texts offers the current standard complete Greek text of Plato's complete works. In five volumes edited by John Burnet , its first edition was published —, and it is still available from the publisher, having last been printed in Dodds ' of the Gorgias , which includes extensive English commentary.
There is also the Clarendon Plato Series by Oxford University Press which offers English translations and thorough philosophical commentary by leading scholars on a few of Plato's works, including John McDowell 's version of the Theaetetus. The most famous criticism of Platonism is the Third Man Argument. Plato actually considered this objection with "large" rather than man in the Parmenides dialogue.
Many recent philosophers have diverged from what some would describe as the ontological models and moral ideals characteristic of traditional Platonism. A number of these postmodern philosophers have thus appeared to disparage Platonism from more or less informed perspectives. Friedrich Nietzsche notoriously attacked Plato's "idea of the good itself" along with many fundamentals of Christian morality, which he interpreted as "Platonism for the masses" in one of his most important works, Beyond Good and Evil Martin Heidegger argued against Plato's alleged obfuscation of Being in his incomplete tome, Being and Time , and the philosopher of science Karl Popper argued in The Open Society and Its Enemies that Plato's alleged proposal for a utopian political regime in the Republic was prototypically totalitarian.
The Dutch historian of science Eduard Jan Dijksterhuis criticizes Plato, stating that he was guilty of "constructing an imaginary nature by reasoning from preconceived principles and forcing reality more or less to adapt itself to this construction. Plato's Academy mosaic was created in the villa of T. The School of Athens fresco by Raphael features Plato also as a central figure. The Nuremberg Chronicle depicts Plato and other as anachronistic schoolmen. Plato's thought is often compared with that of his most famous student, Aristotle, whose reputation during the Western Middle Ages so completely eclipsed that of Plato that the Scholastic philosophers referred to Aristotle as "the Philosopher".
However, in the Byzantine Empire , the study of Plato continued. The only Platonic work known to western scholarship was Timaeus , until translations were made after the fall of Constantinople , which occurred during It is believed that Plethon passed a copy of the Dialogues to Cosimo de' Medici when in the Council of Ferrara , called to unify the Greek and Latin Churches, was adjourned to Florence, where Plethon then lectured on the relation and differences of Plato and Aristotle, and fired Cosimo with his enthusiasm;  Cosimo would supply Marsilio Ficino with Plato's text for translation to Latin.
During the early Islamic era, Persian and Arab scholars translated much of Plato into Arabic and wrote commentaries and interpretations on Plato's, Aristotle's and other Platonist philosophers' works see Al-Farabi , Avicenna , Averroes , Hunayn ibn Ishaq. Many of these comments on Plato were translated from Arabic into Latin and as such influenced Medieval scholastic philosophers.
During the Renaissance , with the general resurgence of interest in classical civilization, knowledge of Plato's philosophy would become widespread again in the West. Many of the greatest early modern scientists and artists who broke with Scholasticism and fostered the flowering of the Renaissance, with the support of the Plato-inspired Lorenzo grandson of Cosimo , saw Plato's philosophy as the basis for progress in the arts and sciences.
His political views, too, were well-received: the vision of wise philosopher-kings of the Republic matched the views set out in works such as Machiavelli 's The Prince. It was Plethon's student Bessarion who reconciled Plato with Christian theology, arguing that Plato's views were only ideals, unattainable due to the fall of man.
By the 19th century, Plato's reputation was restored, and at least on par with Aristotle's. Notable Western philosophers have continued to draw upon Plato's work since that time. Plato's influence has been especially strong in mathematics and the sciences. Albert Einstein suggested that the scientist who takes philosophy seriously would have to avoid systematization and take on many different roles, and possibly appear as a Platonist or Pythagorean, in that such a one would have "the viewpoint of logical simplicity as an indispensable and effective tool of his research.
The political philosopher and professor Leo Strauss is considered by some as the prime thinker involved in the recovery of Platonic thought in its more political, and less metaphysical, form. Strauss' political approach was in part inspired by the appropriation of Plato and Aristotle by medieval Jewish and Islamic political philosophers , especially Maimonides and Al-Farabi , as opposed to the Christian metaphysical tradition that developed from Neoplatonism.
Deeply influenced by Nietzsche and Heidegger, Strauss nonetheless rejects their condemnation of Plato and looks to the dialogues for a solution to what all three latter day thinkers acknowledge as 'the crisis of the West.
Quine dubbed the problem of negative existentials " Plato's beard ". Noam Chomsky dubbed the problem of knowledge Plato's problem. One author calls the definist fallacy the Socratic fallacy [ citation needed ]. More broadly, platonism sometimes distinguished from Plato's particular view by the lowercase refers to the view that there are many abstract objects.
Still to this day, platonists take number and the truths of mathematics as the best support in favour of this view. Most mathematicians think, like platonists, that numbers and the truths of mathematics are perceived by reason rather than the senses yet exist independently of minds and people, that is to say, they are discovered rather than invented. Contemporary platonism is also more open to the idea of there being infinitely many abstract objects, as numbers or propositions might qualify as abstract objects, while ancient Platonism seemed to resist this view, possibly because of the need to overcome the problem of "the One and the Many".
Thus e. However, he repeatedly does support the idea that there are Forms of artifacts, e. Contemporary platonism also tends to view abstract objects as unable to cause anything, but it is unclear whether the ancient Platonists felt this way. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other uses, see Plato disambiguation and Platon disambiguation.
Classical Greek Athenian philosopher, founder of Platonism. Roman copy of a portrait bust by Silanion for the Academia in Athens c. Athens , Greece. Platonic philosophy Innatism Theory of forms Idealism. Plato from Raphael 's The School of Athens — Main article: Early life of Plato.
Assignment to the elements in Kepler 's Mysterium Cosmographicum. Heraclitus by Hendrick ter Brugghen. See also: Socratic problem. See also: List of speakers in Plato's dialogues. Main article: Allegorical interpretations of Plato. See also: List of manuscripts of Plato's dialogues. Philosophy portal. Diogenes mentions as one of his sources the Universal History of Favorinus. According to Favorinus, Ariston, Plato's family, and his family were sent by Athens to settle as cleruchs colonists retaining their Athenian citizenship , on the island of Aegina, from which they were expelled by the Spartans after Plato's birth there.
Jens Halfwassen states in Der Aufstieg zum Einen' that "Plotinus' ontology—which should be called Plotinus' henology —is a rather accurate philosophical renewal and continuation of Plato's unwritten doctrine, i.
Montoriola , p. Another description is by Reale and Reale A thorough analysis of the consequences of such an approach is given by Szlezak Another supporter of this interpretation is the German philosopher Karl Albert , cf. Albert or Albert Hans-Georg Gadamer is also sympathetic towards it, cf. Grondin and Gadamer Gadamer's final position on the subject is stated in Gadamer This is in accordance with the practice in the specialized literature, in which it is common to find that the terms allegory and myth are used as synonyms.
Nevertheless, there is a trend among modern scholars to use the term myth and avoid the term allegory, as it is considered more appropriate to modern interpretation of Plato's writings. The South Atlantic Quarterly. Duke University Press. Archived from the original on 21 April Retrieved 17 January Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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Translated by Jowett Benjamin — via Wikisource. Plato Translated by Burnet, John. Oxford University. The Republic. Plutarch [written in the late 1st century]. Translated by Dryden, John — via Wikisource. Seneca the Younger. Moral Letters to Lucilius: Letter Translated by Richard Mott Gummere — via Wikisource. History of the Peloponnesian War. Translated by Crawley, Richard — via Wikisource.
Xenophon , Memorabilia. Albert, Karl Griechische Religion und platonische Philosophie. Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag. Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft. Marsilio Ficino: The Philebus Commentary. University of California Press.
Blackburn, Simon The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Oxford University Press. Oxford: Oxford University Press. In Ferrari, G. The Cambridge Companion to Plato's Republic. Translated from the German by G. Cambridge University Press.
Nebula, A Netzine of the Arts and Science. Merzbach, Uta C. A History of Mathematics Second ed. The Chronology of Plato's Dialogues. Fieser, James; Dowden, Bradley eds. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved 3 April Pseudodoxia Epidemica. IV 6th ed. October The Yale University Library Gazette. Plato's Phaedo. In Hamilton, Edith; Cairns, Huntington eds.
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This regime is ruled by a philosopher king , and thus is grounded on wisdom and reason. The aristocratic state that Plato idealizes is composed of three caste-like parts: the ruling class, made up of the aforementioned philosophers-kings who are otherwise identified as having souls of gold ; the auxiliaries of the ruling caste, made up of soldiers whose souls are made up of silver , and whose job in the state is to force on the majority the order established by the philosophers; and the majority of the people souls of either bronze or iron , who, in contrast to the first two classes, are allowed to own property and produce goods for themselves, but are also obliged to sustain with their own activities their rulers' — who are forbidden from owning property in order to preclude that the policies they undertake be tainted by personal interests.
The aristocratic man is better represented by Plato's brand of philosopher: a man whose character and ambitions have been forged into those ideal for a just ruler through a rigorous education system designed to train intellectuals that are selfless and upright, and whose souls have been made calm and aware of the absolute Good by learning the Truth based on the Platonic Ideas.
Plato envisages for this philosopher a disposition and ability that makes him the ideal governor of any state precisely because his soul knows the Idea of the Good, which is the metaphysical origin of all that is good, including happiness itself. Wealth, fame, and power are just shadows of the Good and provide only hollow and fleeting satisfaction. It is only the knowledge of the Good in itself that gives man enduring and real happiness. Thus, the philosopher who is exposed to metaphysical contemplation is not tempted to abuse his power in his pursuit of material goods, and his state policies are therefore dedicated to establishing only the Good in the state, not his personal interests.
In contrast to historical aristocracies, Plato's resembles a meritocracy or proto- technocracy of sorts. In it, a big government state keeps track of the innate character and natural skills of the citizens' children, directing them to the education that best suits those traits.
In this manner, a child with a gold soul born to parents with silver, bronze or iron souls will not be held back by his inferior birth and will be educated to levels above his kin according to his golden qualities. Conversely, from parents with gold and silver souls, a child born with a bronze or an iron soul is educated to only the level earned by his natural aptitudes.
Aristocracy degenerates into timocracy when, due to miscalculation on the part of its governing class, the next generation of guardians and auxiliaries includes persons of an inferior nature the persons with souls made of iron or bronze, as opposed to the ideal guardians and auxiliaries, who have souls made of gold and silver.
Since in the government there will be present people of an inferior nature, inclined not just to cultivating virtues but also producing wealth, a change in the constitution of the aristocratic city is eventually worked, and its educational system, which used to introduce the high classes into a purely rational, selfless political theory, is altered so that it becomes permissible for current state leaders to pursue their individual interests.
The timocracy, however, does not completely break from all the characteristics of aristocracy, and for Plato this regime is a combination of good and bad features. A timocracy, in choosing its leaders, is "inclining rather to the more high-spirited and simple-minded type, who are better suited for war". Plato characterizes timocracy as a mixture of the elements of two different regime types — aristocracy and oligarchy. Just like the leaders of Platonic aristocracies, timocratic governors will apply great effort in gymnastics and the arts of war, as well as the virtue that pertains to them, that of courage.
They will also be contemptuous towards manual activities and trade and will lead a life in public communion. Just like oligarchs, however, they will yearn for material wealth and will not trust thinkers to be placed in positions of power. Timocrats will have a tendency to accumulate wealth in pernicious ways, and hide their possessions from public view. They will also be spendthrift and hedonistic. Because their voluptuous nature will not be, like that of philosopher-kings, pacified in a philosophical education, law can only be imposed onto them by means of force.
For Plato, timocracies were clearly superior to most regimes that prevailed in Greece in his time, which were mostly oligarchies or democracies. Crete and Sparta are two examples of timocracies given in Plato's Republic. In the Symposium , Sparta's founder, Lycurgus , is given high praise for his wisdom.
And both Crete and Sparta continued to be held in admiration by Plato in one of his latest works, the Laws , for having constitutions which, unlike that of most other Greek cities, go beyond mere enumeration of laws, and focus instead on the cultivation of virtues or at least one of them, that of courage.
Plato, however, does present a criticism against those cities — that their constitutions neglected two other virtues essential to a perfectly just city such as his aristocracy, namely wisdom and moderation. Of the man who represents a timocratic state, Socrates says that his nature is primarily good: He may see in his father who himself would correspond to an aristocratic state a man who doesn't bother his soul with power displays and civil disputes, but instead busies himself only with cultivating his own virtues.
However, that same young man may find in other persons in his house a resentment of the father's indifference to status. Thus, by observing his father and listening to his reasoning, he's tempted to the flourishing of his own intellect and virtues; but influenced by others in his house or city, he may become power craving.
He thus assents to the portion of his soul that is intermediate between reason and desire see Plato's tripartite theory of soul , the one that is aggressive and courageous thus the timocracy's military character. The young timocrat may himself be somewhat contemptuous towards money and money-making activity, but he becomes increasingly focused in saving his goods as he ages, since the virtues of his soul have not been purified by the salutary effects of reasoning activities and aesthetic experiences that Plato recommends to the high class.
The timocrat is further described as obedient towards authority, respectful to other free citizens, good at listening, and aggressive rather than contemptuous towards slaves. Plato defines oligarchy as a system of government which distinguishes between the rich and the poor, making out of the former its administrators.
An oligarchy is originated by extending tendencies already evident in a timocracy. In contrast to Platonic aristocrats, timocrats are allowed by their constitution to own property and thus to both accumulate and waste money. Because of the pleasures derived therefrom, money eventually is prized over virtue, and the leaders of the state seek to alter the law to give way and accommodate to the materialistic lust of its citizens.
As a result of this new found appreciation for money, the governors rework the constitution yet again to restrict political power to the rich only. That is how a timocracy becomes an oligarchy. Plato gives a detailed account of the problems usually faced by the oligarchies of his days, which he considered as significantly more troubled than the former system, that of timocracy. The following are examples of such problems:. If, by the way, a revolution does ensue, and the poor become victorious over the rich, the former expel the latter from the city, or kill them, and proceed to divide their properties and political power between one another.
That is how, according to Plato, a democracy is established. As to the man whose character reflects that of an oligarchy, Plato explains his psychology with a similar scheme to the one used for the timocratic man. Just like Plato explains the timocratic character as the result of social corruption of a parent aristocratic principle, the oligarch is explained as deriving from a timocratic familial background.
Thus, at first, the oligarchic son emulates his timocratic father, being ambitious and craving honor and fame. When, however, he witnesses the problems his father faces due to those timocratic tendencies — say, he wastes public goods in a military campaign, and then is brought before the court, losing his properties after trial — the future oligarch becomes poor.
He then turns against the ambitions he had in his soul, which he now sees as harmful, and puts in their place craving for money, instead of honor, and a parsimonious cautiousness. Such men, the oligarchs, live only to enrich themselves, and through their private means they seek to fulfill only their most urgent needs. However, when in charge of public goods, they become quite 'generous'. Oligarchs do, however, value at least one virtue, that of temperance and moderation — not out of an ethical principle or spiritual concern, but because by dominating wasteful tendencies they succeed in accumulating money.
Thus even though he has bad desires — which Plato compares to the anarchic tendencies of the poor people in oligarchies — by virtue of temperance the oligarch manages to establish a fragile order in his soul. Thus the oligarch may seem, at least in appearance, superior to the majority of men. Oligarchy then degenerates into a democracy where freedom is the supreme good but freedom is also slavery.
In democracy , the lower class grows bigger and bigger. The poor become the winners. People are free to do what they want and live how they want. People can even break the law if they so choose. This appears to be very similar to anarchy. Plato uses the "democratic man" to represent democracy.
The democratic man is the son of the oligarchic man. Unlike his father, the democratic man is consumed with unnecessary desires. Plato describes necessary desires as desires that we have out of instinct or desires that we have to survive. Unnecessary desires are desires we can teach ourselves to resist such as the desire for riches. The democratic man takes great interest in all the things he can buy with his money. Plato believes that the democratic man is more concerned with his money over how he can help the people.
He does whatever he wants whenever he wants to do it. His life has no order or priority. Democracy then degenerates into tyranny where no one has discipline and society exists in chaos. Similarly, when we ask how a word that has several different senses is best understood, we are asking what Plato means to communicate to us through the speaker who uses that word.
We should not suppose that we can derive much philosophical value from Plato's writings if we refuse to entertain any thoughts about what use he intends us to make of the things his speakers say. Penetrating the mind of Plato and comprehending what his interlocutors mean by what they say are not two separate tasks but one, and if we do not ask what his interlocutors mean by what they say, and what the dialogue itself indicates we should think about what they mean, we will not profit from reading his dialogues.
Furthermore, the dialogues have certain characteristics that are most easily explained by supposing that Plato is using them as vehicles for inducing his readers to become convinced or more convinced than they already are of certain propositions—for example, that there are forms, that the soul is not corporeal, that knowledge can be acquired only by means of a study of the forms, and so on.
Why, after all, did Plato write so many works for example: Phaedo , Symposium , Republic , Phaedrus , Theaetetus , Sophist , Statesman , Timaeus , Philebus , Laws in which one character dominates the conversation often, but not always, Socrates and convinces the other speakers at times, after encountering initial resistance that they should accept or reject certain conclusions, on the basis of the arguments presented?
The only plausible way of answering that question is to say that these dialogues were intended by Plato to be devices by which he might induce the audience for which they are intended to reflect on and accept the arguments and conclusions offered by his principal interlocutor. The educative value of written texts is thus explicitly acknowledged by Plato's dominant speaker. If preludes can educate a whole citizenry that is prepared to learn from them, then surely Plato thinks that other sorts of written texts—for example, his own dialogues—can also serve an educative function.
This does not mean that Plato thinks that his readers can become wise simply by reading and studying his works. On the contrary, it is highly likely that he wanted all of his writings to be supplementary aids to philosophical conversation: in one of his works, he has Socrates warn his readers against relying solely on books, or taking them to be authoritative.
They are, Socrates says, best used as devices that stimulate the readers' memory of discussions they have had Phaedrus ed. In those face-to-face conversations with a knowledgeable leader, positions are taken, arguments are given, and conclusions are drawn. Plato's writings, he implies in this passage from Phaedrus , will work best when conversational seeds have already been sown for the arguments they contain. If we take Plato to be trying to persuade us, in many of his works, to accept the conclusions arrived at by his principal interlocutors or to persuade us of the refutations of their opponents , we can easily explain why he so often chooses Socrates as the dominant speaker in his dialogues.
Presumably the contemporary audience for whom Plato was writing included many of Socrates' admirers. Furthermore, if Plato felt strongly indebted to Socrates for many of his philosophical techniques and ideas, that would give him further reason for assigning a dominant role to him in many of his works. More about this in section Of course, there are other more speculative possible ways of explaining why Plato so often makes Socrates his principal speaker.
But anyone who has read some of Plato's works will quickly recognize the utter implausibility of that alternative way of reading them. Plato could have written into his works clear signals to the reader that the arguments of Socrates do not work, and that his interlocutors are foolish to accept them. But there are many signs in such works as Meno , Phaedo , Republic , and Phaedrus that point in the opposite direction.
And the great admiration Plato feels for Socrates is also evident from his Apology. The reader is given every encouragement to believe that the reason why Socrates is successful in persuading his interlocutors on those occasions when he does succeed is that his arguments are powerful ones. The reader, in other words, is being encouraged by the author to accept those arguments, if not as definitive then at least as highly arresting and deserving of careful and full positive consideration.
When we interpret the dialogues in this way, we cannot escape the fact that we are entering into the mind of Plato, and attributing to him, their author, a positive evaluation of the arguments that his speakers present to each other. There is a further reason for entertaining hypotheses about what Plato intended and believed, and not merely confining ourselves to observations about what sorts of people his characters are and what they say to each other. When we undertake a serious study of Plato, and go beyond reading just one of his works, we are inevitably confronted with the question of how we are to link the work we are currently reading with the many others that Plato composed.
Admittedly, many of his dialogues make a fresh start in their setting and their interlocutors: typically, Socrates encounters a group of people many of whom do not appear in any other work of Plato, and so, as an author, he needs to give his readers some indication of their character and social circumstances.
But often Plato's characters make statements that would be difficult for readers to understand unless they had already read one or more of his other works. For example, in Phaedo 73a-b , Socrates says that one argument for the immortality of the soul derives from the fact that when people are asked certain kinds of questions, and are aided with diagrams, they answer in a way that shows that they are not learning afresh from the diagrams or from information provided in the questions, but are drawing their knowledge of the answers from within themselves.
That remark would be of little worth for an audience that had not already read Meno. Several pages later, Socrates tells his interlocutors that his argument about our prior knowledge of equality itself the form of equality applies no less to other forms—to the beautiful, good, just, pious and to all the other things that are involved in their asking and answering of questions 75d. Laches : what is courage?
Charmides : What is moderation? Hippias Major : what is beauty? Evidently, Plato is assuming that readers of Phaedo have already read several of his other works, and will bring to bear on the current argument all of the lessons that they have learned from them. In some of his writings, Plato's characters refer ahead to the continuation of their conversations on another day, or refer back to conversations they had recently: thus Plato signals to us that we should read Theaetetus , Sophist , and Statesman sequentially; and similarly, since the opening of Timaeus refers us back to Republic , Plato is indicating to his readers that they must seek some connection between these two works.
These features of the dialogues show Plato's awareness that he cannot entirely start from scratch in every work that he writes. He will introduce new ideas and raise fresh difficulties, but he will also expect his readers to have already familiarized themselves with the conversations held by the interlocutors of other dialogues—even when there is some alteration among those interlocutors. Meno does not re-appear in Phaedo ; Timaeus was not among the interlocutors of Republic.
Why does Plato have his dominant characters Socrates, the Eleatic visitor reaffirm some of the same points from one dialogue to another, and build on ideas that were made in earlier works? If the dialogues were merely meant as provocations to thought—mere exercises for the mind—there would be no need for Plato to identify his leading characters with a consistent and ever-developing doctrine. For example, Socrates continues to maintain, over a large number of dialogues, that there are such things as forms—and there is no better explanation for this continuity than to suppose that Plato is recommending that doctrine to his readers.
Furthermore, when Socrates is replaced as the principal investigator by the visitor from Elea in Sophist and Statesman , the existence of forms continues to be taken for granted, and the visitor criticizes any conception of reality that excludes such incorporeal objects as souls and forms. The Eleatic visitor, in other words, upholds a metaphysics that is, in many respects, like the one that Socrates is made to defend.
Again, the best explanation for this continuity is that Plato is using both characters—Socrates and the Eleatic visitor—as devices for the presentation and defense of a doctrine that he embraces and wants his readers to embrace as well.
This way of reading Plato's dialogues does not presuppose that he never changes his mind about anything—that whatever any of his main interlocutors uphold in one dialogue will continue to be presupposed or affirmed elsewhere without alteration.
It is, in fact, a difficult and delicate matter to determine, on the basis of our reading of the dialogues, whether Plato means to modify or reject in one dialogue what he has his main interlocutor affirm in some other. One of the most intriguing and controversial questions about his treatment of the forms, for example, is whether he concedes that his conception of those abstract entities is vulnerable to criticism; and, if so, whether he revises some of the assumptions he had been making about them, or develops a more elaborate picture of them that allows him to respond to that criticism.
In Parmenides , the principal interlocutor not Socrates—he is here portrayed as a promising, young philosopher in need of further training—but rather the pre-Socratic from Elea who gives the dialogue its name: Parmenides subjects the forms to withering criticism, and then consents to conduct an inquiry into the nature of oneness that has no overt connection to his critique of the forms.
Does the discussion of oneness a baffling series of contradictions—or at any rate, propositions that seem, on the surface, to be contradictions in some way help address the problems raised about forms? That is one way of reading the dialogue. And if we do read it in this way, does that show that Plato has changed his mind about some of the ideas about forms he inserted into earlier dialogues?
It is not easy to say. But we cannot even raise this as an issue worth pondering unless we presuppose that behind the dialogues there stands a single mind that is using these writings as a way of hitting upon the truth, and of bringing that truth to the attention of others. If we find Timaeus the principal interlocutor of the dialogue named after him and the Eleatic visitor of the Sophist and Statesman talking about forms in a way that is entirely consistent with the way Socrates talks about forms in Phaedo and Republic , then there is only one reasonable explanation for that consistency: Plato believes that their way of talking about forms is correct, or is at least strongly supported by powerful considerations.
If, on the other hand, we find that Timaeus or the Eleatic visitor talks about forms in a way that does not harmonize with the way Socrates conceives of those abstract objects, in the dialogues that assign him a central role as director of the conversation, then the most plausible explanation for these discrepancies is that Plato has changed his mind about the nature of these entities. It would be implausible to suppose that Plato himself had no convictions about forms, and merely wants to give his readers mental exercise by composing dialogues in which different leading characters talk about these objects in discordant ways.
The same point—that we must view the dialogues as the product of a single mind, a single philosopher, though perhaps one who changes his mind—can be made in connection with the politics of Plato's works. It is noteworthy, to begin with, that Plato is, among other things, a political philosopher. For he gives expression, in several of his writings particular Phaedo , to a yearning to escape from the tawdriness of ordinary human relations. Similarly, he evinces a sense of the ugliness of the sensible world, whose beauty pales in comparison with that of the forms.
Because of this, it would have been all too easy for Plato to turn his back entirely on practical reality, and to confine his speculations to theoretical questions. Some of his works— Parmenides is a stellar example—do confine themselves to exploring questions that seem to have no bearing whatsoever on practical life. But it is remarkable how few of his works fall into this category. Even the highly abstract questions raised in Sophist about the nature of being and not-being are, after all, embedded in a search for the definition of sophistry; and thus they call to mind the question whether Socrates should be classified as a sophist—whether, in other words, sophists are to be despised and avoided.
In any case, despite the great sympathy Plato expresses for the desire to shed one's body and live in an incorporeal world, he devotes an enormous amount of energy to the task of understanding the world we live in, appreciating its limited beauty, and improving it. His tribute to the mixed beauty of the sensible world, in Timaeus , consists in his depiction of it as the outcome of divine efforts to mold reality in the image of the forms, using simple geometrical patterns and harmonious arithmetic relations as building blocks.
The desire to transform human relations is given expression in a far larger number of works. Socrates presents himself, in Plato's Apology , as a man who does not have his head in the clouds that is part of Aristophanes' charge against him in Clouds. He does not want to escape from the everyday world but to make it better. He presents himself, in Gorgias , as the only Athenian who has tried his hand at the true art of politics. Similarly, the Socrates of Republic devotes a considerable part of his discussion to the critique of ordinary social institutions—the family, private property, and rule by the many.
The motivation that lies behind the writing of this dialogue is the desire to transform or, at any rate, to improve political life, not to escape from it although it is acknowledged that the desire to escape is an honorable one: the best sort of rulers greatly prefer the contemplation of divine reality to the governance of the city. And if we have any further doubts that Plato does take an interest in the practical realm, we need only turn to Laws.
A work of such great detail and length about voting procedures, punishments, education, legislation, and the oversight of public officials can only have been produced by someone who wants to contribute something to the improvement of the lives we lead in this sensible and imperfect realm. Further evidence of Plato's interest in practical matters can be drawn from his letters, if they are genuine.
In most of them, he presents himself as having a deep interest in educating with the help of his friend, Dion the ruler of Syracuse, Dionysius II, and thus reforming that city's politics. Just as any attempt to understand Plato's views about forms must confront the question whether his thoughts about them developed or altered over time, so too our reading of him as a political philosopher must be shaped by a willingness to consider the possibility that he changed his mind.
For example, on any plausible reading of Republic , Plato evinces a deep antipathy to rule by the many. Socrates tells his interlocutors that the only politics that should engage them are those of the anti-democratic regime he depicts as the paradigm of a good constitution.
And yet in Laws , the Athenian visitor proposes a detailed legislative framework for a city in which non-philosophers people who have never heard of the forms, and have not been trained to understand them are given considerable powers as rulers. Plato would not have invested so much time in the creation of this comprehensive and lengthy work, had he not believed that the creation of a political community ruled by those who are philosophically unenlightened is a project that deserves the support of his readers.
Has Plato changed his mind, then? Has he re-evaluated the highly negative opinion he once held of those who are innocent of philosophy? Did he at first think that the reform of existing Greek cities, with all of their imperfections, is a waste of time—but then decide that it is an endeavor of great value? And if so, what led him to change his mind? Answers to these questions can be justified only by careful attention to what he has his interlocutors say.
But it would be utterly implausible to suppose that these developmental questions need not be raised, on the grounds that Republic and Laws each has its own cast of characters, and that the two works therefore cannot come into contradiction with each other. According to this hypothesis one that must be rejected , because it is Socrates not Plato who is critical of democracy in Republic , and because it is the Athenian visitor not Plato who recognizes the merits of rule by the many in Laws , there is no possibility that the two dialogues are in tension with each other.
Against this hypothesis, we should say: Since both Republic and Laws are works in which Plato is trying to move his readers towards certain conclusions, by having them reflect on certain arguments—these dialogues are not barred from having this feature by their use of interlocutors—it would be an evasion of our responsibility as readers and students of Plato not to ask whether what one of them advocates is compatible with what the other advocates.
If we answer that question negatively, we have some explaining to do: what led to this change? Alternatively, if we conclude that the two works are compatible, we must say why the appearance of conflict is illusory. Many contemporary scholars find it plausible that when Plato embarked on his career as a philosophical writer, he composed, in addition to his Apology of Socrates, a number of short ethical dialogues that contain little or nothing in the way of positive philosophical doctrine, but are mainly devoted to portraying the way in which Socrates punctured the pretensions of his interlocutors and forced them to realize that they are unable to offer satisfactory definitions of the ethical terms they used, or satisfactory arguments for their moral beliefs.
According to this way of placing the dialogues into a rough chronological order—associated especially with Gregory Vlastos's name see especially his Socrates Ironist and Moral Philosopher , chapters 2 and 3 —Plato, at this point of his career, was content to use his writings primarily for the purpose of preserving the memory of Socrates and making plain the superiority of his hero, in intellectual skill and moral seriousness, to all of his contemporaries—particularly those among them who claimed to be experts on religious, political, or moral matters.
For example, it is sometimes said that Protagoras and Gorgias are later, because of their greater length and philosophical complexity. Other dialogues—for example, Charmides and Lysis —are thought not to be among Plato's earliest within this early group, because in them Socrates appears to be playing a more active role in shaping the progress of the dialogue: that is, he has more ideas of his own.
Aristotle describes Socrates as someone whose interests were restricted to only one branch of philosophy—the realm of the ethical; and he also says that he was in the habit of asking definitional questions to which he himself lacked answers Metaphysics b1, Sophistical Refutations b7. That testimony gives added weight to the widely accepted hypothesis that there is a group of dialogues—the ones mentioned above as his early works, whether or not they were all written early in Plato's writing career—in which Plato used the dialogue form as a way of portraying the philosophical activities of the historical Socrates although, of course, he might also have used them in other ways as well—for example to suggest and begin to explore philosophical difficulties raised by them.
By contrast, in Apology Socrates says that no one knows what becomes of us after we die. Phaedo is often said to be the dialogue in which Plato first comes into his own as a philosopher who is moving far beyond the ideas of his teacher though it is also commonly said that we see a new methodological sophistication and a greater interest in mathematical knowledge in Meno.
Having completed all of the dialogues that, according to this hypothesis, we characterize as early, Plato widened the range of topics to be explored in his writings no longer confining himself to ethics , and placed the theory of forms and related ideas about language, knowledge, and love at the center of his thinking. The focus is no longer on ridding ourselves of false ideas and self-deceit; rather, we are asked to accept however tentatively a radical new conception of ourselves now divided into three parts , our world—or rather, our two worlds—and our need to negotiate between them.
Definitions of the most important virtue terms are finally proposed in Republic the search for them in some of the early dialogues having been unsuccessful : Book I of this dialogue is a portrait of how the historical Socrates might have handled the search for a definition of justice, and the rest of the dialogue shows how the new ideas and tools discovered by Plato can complete the project that his teacher was unable to finish.
In doing so, he acknowledges his intellectual debt to his teacher and appropriates for his own purposes the extraordinary prestige of the man who was the wisest of his time. That is because, following ancient testimony, it has become a widely accepted assumption that Laws is one of Plato's last works, and further that this dialogue shares a great many stylistic affinities with a small group of others: Sophist , Statesman , Timaeus , Critias , and Philebus.
These five dialogues together with Laws are generally agreed to be his late works, because they have much more in common with each other, when one counts certain stylistic features apparent only to readers of Plato's Greek, than with any of Plato's other works. Computer counts have aided these stylometric studies, but the isolation of a group of six dialogues by means of their stylistic commonalities was recognized in the nineteenth century.
It is not at all clear whether there are one or more philosophical affinities among this group of six dialogues—that is, whether the philosophy they contain is sharply different from that of all of the other dialogues. Plato does nothing to encourage the reader to view these works as a distinctive and separate component of his thinking.
On the contrary, he links Sophist with Theaetetus the conversations they present have a largely overlapping cast of characters, and take place on successive days no less than Sophist and Statesman. Sophist contains, in its opening pages, a reference to the conversation of Parmenides —and perhaps Plato is thus signaling to his readers that they should bring to bear on Sophist the lessons that are to be drawn from Parmenides.
Similarly, Timaeus opens with a reminder of some of the principal ethical and political doctrines of Republic. It could be argued, of course, that when one looks beyond these stage-setting devices, one finds significant philosophical changes in the six late dialogues, setting this group off from all that preceded them. But there is no consensus that they should be read in this way. Resolving this issue requires intensive study of the content of Plato's works.
So, although it is widely accepted that the six dialogues mentioned above belong to Plato's latest period, there is, as yet, no agreement among students of Plato that these six form a distinctive stage in his philosophical development. In fact, it remains a matter of dispute whether the division of Plato's works into three periods—early, middle, late—does correctly indicate the order of composition, and whether it is a useful tool for the understanding of his thought See Cooper , vii—xxvii.
Of course, it would be wildly implausible to suppose that Plato's writing career began with such complex works as Laws , Parmenides , Phaedrus , or Republic. In light of widely accepted assumptions about how most philosophical minds develop, it is likely that when Plato started writing philosophical works some of the shorter and simpler dialogues were the ones he composed: Laches , or Crito , or Ion for example. Similarly, Apology does not advance a complex philosophical agenda or presuppose an earlier body of work; so that too is likely to have been composed near the beginning of Plato's writing career.
Even so, there is no good reason to eliminate the hypothesis that throughout much of his life Plato devoted himself to writing two sorts of dialogues at the same time, moving back and forth between them as he aged: on the one hand, introductory works whose primary purpose is to show readers the difficulty of apparently simple philosophical problems, and thereby to rid them of their pretensions and false beliefs; and on the other hand, works filled with more substantive philosophical theories supported by elaborate argumentation.
Plato makes it clear that both of these processes, one preceding the other, must be part of one's philosophical education. One of his deepest methodological convictions affirmed in Meno , Theaetetus , and Sophist is that in order to make intellectual progress we must recognize that knowledge cannot be acquired by passively receiving it from others: rather, we must work our way through problems and assess the merits of competing theories with an independent mind.
Accordingly, some of his dialogues are primarily devices for breaking down the reader's complacency, and that is why it is essential that they come to no positive conclusions; others are contributions to theory-construction, and are therefore best absorbed by those who have already passed through the first stage of philosophical development.
We should not assume that Plato could have written the preparatory dialogues only at the earliest stage of his career. For example although both Euthydemus and Charmides are widely assumed to be early dialogues, they might have been written around the same time as Symposium and Republic , which are generally assumed to be compositions of his middle period—or even later.
No doubt, some of the works widely considered to be early really are such. But it is an open question which and how many of them are. Plato uses this educational device—provoking the reader through the presentation of opposed arguments, and leaving the contradiction unresolved—in Protagoras often considered an early dialogue as well.
So it is clear that even after he was well beyond the earliest stages of his thinking, he continued to assign himself the project of writing works whose principal aim is the presentation of unresolved difficulties. And, just as we should recognize that puzzling the reader continues to be his aim even in later works, so too we should not overlook the fact that there is some substantive theory-construction in the ethical works that are simple enough to have been early compositions: Ion , for example, affirms a theory of poetic inspiration; and Crito sets out the conditions under which a citizen acquires an obligation to obey civic commands.
Neither ends in failure. If we are justified in taking Socrates' speech in Plato's Apology to constitute reliable evidence about what the historical Socrates was like, then whatever we find in Plato's other works that is of a piece with that speech can also be safely attributed to Socrates. So understood, Socrates was a moralist but unlike Plato not a metaphysician or epistemologist or cosmologist. That fits with Aristotle's testimony, and Plato's way of choosing the dominant speaker of his dialogues gives further support to this way of distinguishing between him and Socrates.
The number of dialogues that are dominated by a Socrates who is spinning out elaborate philosophical doctrines is remarkably small: Phaedo , Republic , Phaedrus , and Philebus. All of them are dominated by ethical issues: whether to fear death, whether to be just, whom to love, the place of pleasure.
Evidently, Plato thinks that it is appropriate to make Socrates the major speaker in a dialogue that is filled with positive content only when the topics explored in that work primarily have to do with the ethical life of the individual.
The political aspects of Republic are explicitly said to serve the larger question whether any individual, no matter what his circumstances, should be just. When the doctrines he wishes to present systematically become primarily metaphysical, he turns to a visitor from Elea Sophist , Statesman ; when they become cosmological, he turns to Timaeus; when they become constitutional, he turns, in Laws , to a visitor from Athens and he then eliminates Socrates entirely.
In effect, Plato is showing us: although he owes a great deal to the ethical insights of Socrates, as well as to his method of puncturing the intellectual pretensions of his interlocutors by leading them into contradiction, he thinks he should not put into the mouth of his teacher too elaborate an exploration of ontological, or cosmological, or political themes, because Socrates refrained from entering these domains.
This may be part of the explanation why he has Socrates put into the mouth of the personified Laws of Athens the theory advanced in Crito , which reaches the conclusion that it would be unjust for him to escape from prison. Perhaps Plato is indicating, at the point where these speakers enter the dialogue, that none of what is said here is in any way derived from or inspired by the conversation of Socrates. Just as we should reject the idea that Plato must have made a decision, at a fairly early point in his career, no longer to write one kind of dialogue negative, destructive, preparatory and to write only works of elaborate theory-construction; so we should also question whether he went through an early stage during which he refrained from introducing into his works any of his own ideas if he had any , but was content to play the role of a faithful portraitist, representing to his readers the life and thought of Socrates.
It is unrealistic to suppose that someone as original and creative as Plato, who probably began to write dialogues somewhere in his thirties he was around 28 when Socrates was killed , would have started his compositions with no ideas of his own, or, having such ideas, would have decided to suppress them, for some period of time, allowing himself to think for himself only later. What would have led to such a decision? We should instead treat the moves made in the dialogues, even those that are likely to be early, as Platonic inventions—derived, no doubt, by Plato's reflections on and transformations of the key themes of Socrates that he attributes to Socrates in Apology.
That speech indicates, for example, that the kind of religiosity exhibited by Socrates was unorthodox and likely to give offense or lead to misunderstanding. It would be implausible to suppose that Plato simply concocted the idea that Socrates followed a divine sign, especially because Xenophon too attributes this to his Socrates.
But what of the various philosophical moves rehearsed in Euthyphro —the dialogue in which Socrates searches, unsuccessfully, for an understanding of what piety is? We have no good reason to think that in writing this work Plato adopted the role of a mere recording device, or something close to it changing a word here and there, but for the most part simply recalling what he heard Socrates say, as he made his way to court. It is more likely that Plato, having been inspired by the unorthodoxy of Socrates' conception of piety, developed, on his own, a series of questions and answers designed to show his readers how difficult it is to reach an understanding of the central concept that Socrates' fellow citizens relied upon when they condemned him to death.
The idea that it is important to search for definitions may have been Socratic in origin. After all, Aristotle attributes this much to Socrates. But the twists and turns of the arguments in Euthyphro and other dialogues that search for definitions are more likely to be the products of Plato's mind than the content of any conversations that really took place.
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